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71 IEM Brief Review thread (incl. Rhine Monitors, Cleartune, CustomArt)

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  1. jelt2359 Contributor
    Ah, I should have seen it in your sig. I was checking from my mobile phone. Interestingly, it seems this is one brand we don't have in Singapore!
  2. tf1216
    As far as I know, Alclair does not have any distribution outside of the States.  The guys over at Headfonia just released a review of the RSM.  Maybe it will convince you to give the monitors a try.
  3. jelt2359 Contributor
    Round 11: AAW W300, Fitear 334, Fitear 335, Cleartune Monitors CTM500, JHA Layla, JHA Angie. In this audition, I got to listen again to the LQ05 (original impressions updated), and compared the Hidition flagships (NT6, NT6 Pro, Viento R) in more detail vs the Legend R (under the NT6 impressions).
    Advanced AcousticWerkes W300 ($690)
    This has been mentioned to me more than once as AAW's 'baby flagship', providing lots of bang for the buck. I know at least two or three other audiophiles from around these parts who own them, and prefer them vs some of the other flagship offerings that they own. The last time I went to the shop, this one guy had them in his ears for three hours. All good signs, imho. So I was excited to finally be able to try them.
    The subbass presence on these are good, with midbass that is flat and a bit light- certainly not the JH13 type of sound here. Nonetheless it has good natural decay and strong detail down low, despite a slight disadvantage in crispness. The mids are dry, even and clear with good clarity, and not recessed. The airiness is also good. In the treble, the lower portions are even, without sibilance, and the higher registers are also even and well-extended- neither peaky not overly rolled off. Overall, the W300 leans on the side of being analytical but never sounds clinical- a signature that I really liked. That being said, there were a few areas of possible improvement. The general speed and rhythm on display here is not the best, and there could be more resolving ability. Most of all, the coherence between the bass and mids could be improved- I could hear the difference between the mids and the bass drivers very clearly. In terms of sonic presentation, the soundstage was above average, and imaging could be improved a bit.
    Advanced AcousticWerkes W300 Score: 9.5-9.6
    Fitear MH335DW ($1500)
    Though a warmer signature, the Fitear 335 has great balance in the frequency response and is not fatiguing at all. The word that keeps coming to mind is smooth. The lows and mids blend very well- this is not one of those cases where the lows and mids are clearly separated. The subbass is good, with nice reverb, but clearly short of the rumbling power offered by the best. The midbass is okay- though again not quite as punchy as the JH13s- I think not many are. The mids are very clear and a hair shouty at times, and lean just slightly towards being dry. They have good airiness, and are neither forward nor recessed. The detail retrieval is good, and this is impressively achieved without any hint of sibilance in the lower treble, despite this part of the frequency response retaining both great clarity and detail. The upper treble is reasonably well-extended, and a tad rolled off- though not by much. More generally, the soundstage is above average to large.
    Fitear 335 Score: 9.5-9.6
    Fitear MH334 ($1300)
    There were both universal (TG334) and custom demo versions at the shop I was at. I tried the latter. The 334 immediately struck me as more energetic than the 335, with more mid-bass and more forward mids. The mids seem to have a similar character, being even and clear and with no peaks, and being just slightly dry. The lower treble is slightly more peaky, but less aggressive than on the 335 overall. The upper treble is more rolled-off. The subbass doesn't reverb with the best of them either, but does better in this regard than the 335. The soundstage is large here, and again, what I kept writing down was 'smooth, smooth, smooth'. This must be a Fitear specialty.
    Fitear 334 Score: 9.6
    Cleartune Monitors CT-500 Elite ($700)
    Ironically, it was the (jointly) cheapest CIEM of the day that impressed me the most. The Cleartune pair had great imaging and soundstage. The mids are even, with top-notch clarity. The bass is level and detailed, but shy of the punch on the 334. The decay on the lows is not lightning fast or crisp- sounding quite natural to me. The bass punches quickly, but not hard, and overall lacks a bit of impact and slam. The subbass is also clearly short of that on the 334. The signature here is slightly bright, but still smooth. The lower treble is energetic and clear- on the line of edginess, but never quite tipping over. The upper treble is a bit rolled off. Airiness and detail retrieval was very good, but most of all- and I've saved the best to be repeated again at the end- the mids were beautifully resonant, with a slightly forward character. I went with a buddy who owns the Legend R and after two auditions with the Hidition NT6 Pro had all but put down an order for it, but all those plans were put on hold- in favour of the CT-500- after he heard it. His words: this is a "hidden gem".
    After my critical listening was over, I spent quite a while just enjoying the beautiful mids of the CT-500. Simply marvelous. I'm not sure why these have not gotten more traction on Head-Fi- I can only assume this is because they've previously focused mainly on the musician market. With a new flagship just launched (the CT6E, which I have on order), I believe this is about to change.
    Update: The CT-500 kept drawing me in, and I have returned to listen to it multiple times since the last audition. This is pretty rare for me. I've started to appreciate that its bass, while definitely lighter, has a pretty natural decay. It also blends nicely with the mid-forward sound, and never overpowering the mids, and allowing the latter to stay even without many peaks. For its simply delightful tuning, I have increased its score.
    Cleartune Monitors CT-500 Elite Score: 9.7
    JHA Layla ($2495)
    I have been discussing with a few Head-Fiers in private about the new ACS Encore, and one of them told me he heard the big, reference British sound on it, but also heard something similar from Layla. I now see where he's coming from. I heard a big, effortless sound, although not quite the crystal clear signature that I was expecting. Nonethless, it was certainly a very clean sound- smooth, and a tad warm. The bass marks a departure from the JH13s and 16s mid-bass hump that I'm used to. Even when turned up to max, the punch is not as high as before, although there is good bounce and detail in the lows, and very natural decay. Playing with the knob yielded- similarly with the Roxanne- a rather subtle change, with the bass maintaining the same character and changing just a tad in quantity. Going to maximum bass improves the subbass sustain, although still rolling off right before the deepest registers- unlike my Shure SE846. Adjusting the lows also showed one remarkable thing- there was almost zero bleed in this bass, as all other parts of the frequency spectrum continued to sound equally even, clear and balanced regardless of the bass quantity. The soundstage is also very good- a very naturally large size, without sounding too diffused nor too focused. The latter occurs sometimes when the large soundstage has been achieved simply by making the sound more recessed overall. This was not the case here.
    I kept thinking that the clarity and evenness of the notes was spot on. I first noticed this in the mids, which were spot on in being even and only occasionally lush, with good air; but then the lower treble is also very good with even energy and no trace of sibilance. The upper treble is subtly rolled off, and won't get on anyone nerves either. The Layla also has good, naturally (subtly) presented detail, that reminded me of my Legend R in this respect. It's not going to smack you in the face with all its resolving power, but if you're in the mood to listen, you'll find it there waiting for you. The imaging is also very naturally done- not extremely stereo or 3D in effect, but elegantly- read: discreetly- done. Overall, the Layla is obviously very technically competent- besting the Angie in imaging, bass, and airiness of the mids- but its sound signature won't be for everyone.
    JHA Layla Score: 9.6-9.7
    JHA Angie ($1099)
    The Angie actually has more energy in the treble, and was clearer, than the Layla. After reading about the crystal clarity of JHA's new offerings, I must say this was actually what I'd expected the Layla to sound like. The notes, like with the Layla, continue to have good authority, and the bass actually sounded slightly cleaner with some of the warmth cleaned up- although this did end up sounding a bit less natural. Similar to the Layla, the mids were clean and even, and sometimes lush- although they were more forward on the JHA little brother. The airiness of the mids were a bit behind the Layla. The bounce and detail of the bass has been reduced a bit in the Angie, although it is still retained, and you can clearly hear that they're from the same family of sound. Going even lower, perhaps the biggest difference between the Layla and the Angie was that the latter had subbass that sounded much lighter. Overall, the sound was a tad faster and cleaner (there's that word again), with a similarly large soundstage, but just slightly worse imaging. The treble is also quite similar between the pair, although the Angie seemed to be a bit more aggressive- a tad edgy almost, but still clean. The upper treble seemed less rolled off on the Angie than on the Layla.
    Overall, I felt that while the Layla were the more technically competent pair, the Angie actually had better tuning and a more enjoyable sound signature. This is reflected in the scores.
    JHA Angie Score: 9.6-9.7
  4. goodvibes
    Thanks for the reviews. I am a bit surprised by the comment of a midbass hump in the Jh13 and the grouping of it with the JH16. They are quite different in character. To my ear, the 16 just has lots of extra bass in general and with it that extra midbass. It also has a bit more sparkle on top to help balance that out a bit. The 13 has a bit of an elevated low bass but no real mid bass emphasis which would be noticed on cellos and lowish male voices.
    Judging from the Roxanne, I find the change related to the bass controls on the Siren series to be rather significant. Just my personal take on this but measurements have shown greater than 10db of change at 100hz and more as you go lower. I suspect that your more ears are just more bass friendly than mine are.
    I also like the Angie's voicing.[​IMG] I suspect many enjoy and are accustomed to bit of 'fill' in their sound. I thought the Angie was rather honest to it's source. I clearly preferred it on the AK240 vs the ak120 when I listened. sonded more like you described on the 120 and just really good to me on the 240.
    Sounds like I may be trying to take you task but I'm not, just offering my opinion on a forum. I find your takes extremely valid and honest. I genuinely appreciate them but it would be nice if you could get to hang on to all the reviewed units for a few weeks or so to optimize each one with your sources. At this level, finding the best interfaces is a huge deal and doing full comparison reviews with a show audition is somewhat less than fair. You are ocviously accustomed to good things so I doubt it would change your rating by much but it does give a better perspective. Perhaps you could list which you own, which you've had for an extended review and which you've simply auditioned. Also which are universal or custom versions. 
    I see you may sometimes be in Chicago. If so PM me next time you're around.
  5. jelt2359 Contributor
    Thanks for the comments goodvibes. I own a JH13 (pre-FQ), and am very familiar with its sound. I do definitely think that my ears are more bass friendly than yours- I've lived with the SE846 as my primary IEM basically for the past year, and they are certainly not bass shy. The JH13 and the JH16 are clearly from the same family to my ears, with the primary difference coming from the added warmth of the JH16. With respect to the bass tuner on the Siren series, my reference is the Lear LCM BD4.2. Don't just take my word for it- look at what average_joe had to say about it. PS, I'll have my own version coming in soon so I will have more to chime in on that regard.
    "The BD4.2 uses a potentiometer for bass adjustment of the dual dynamic drivers, resulting in a very large variance in bass reproduction.  At the minimum setting the bass level is subdued but still present, retaining depth and power while taking a back seat to the rest of the frequency spectrum.  Turn the knob up to the maximum setting and the bass becomes quite prominent and powerful, even overpowering and somewhat resonant in my ears.  The maximum setting should provide more than enough thunderous bass for anyone, even bass heads.  The bass adjustment is no joke and really works, making a huge difference.
    With the bass knob about halfway, the bass is quite neutral and similar to the NT-6 while the Spiral Ear SE 5-way Reference (SE5) requires about 3/4ths to the max for an equivalent.  I don’t have anything that is similar to the max setting. 
    The LCM BD4.2 has a very large bass quantity change, only matched by the Perfect Seal Fusion 11, which is similar to the BD4.2 with an unobstructed vent hole."
    Ownership of the JH13 notwithstanding, this thread contains all brief, not full reviews that chronicles my own journey to try different IEMs to decide which I liked before I bought them. They are all demo versions (Exception: the Layla and Angie were the actual universals). This may not apply to everyone, and of course there are its downsides, but for what it's worth I've based my own personal decisions on my auditions in this thread. I suspect it's not very different from how (if they have the opportunity), others would decide. Try, try, try, then buy. While a professional, full-time reviewer may have the luxury to spend an extended period evaluating a single product whether or not he or she liked it, this was unfortunately not the situation I found myself in. So I took the next best route- auditions, impressions, then buying the ones I liked; to evaluate in the comfort of my own time and space.
    And bought I have- as you can see from my signature. I mostly acquired ones that I liked, although I went for a few 'sound unheard', so to speak, based on my good experiences with a company's previous offerings (this applies to Cleartune CT6E and 1964 A12). I also got one just based on positive impressions, so apart from writing brief reviews, I clearly like reading them too (ACS Encore). I will be hanging on to all these IEMs much longer (after all, they belong to me... where else would they go? :)) and doing a full shootout and review between them. All in all, there are almost 20 of them coming in. 8 belong to the TOTL CIEM variety, and the rest are of the low/mid-fi variety, under $400; these groupings also indicate the 2 different shootouts that I'm planning. Some have started to arrive, and while I'm waiting for them all to be available for the full shootout, I've started to update some impressions- especially more direct AB comparisons- by using my own IEM as reference. For example, I just did this for a quick comparison between the Legend R and NT6. The Legend R was mine.
    As for synergy with different gear: in order to ensure that the differences were due solely to the IEM I was listening to, once I started using the Chord Hugo on my first audition I made the conscious decision to use this as my source for every subsequent IEM as well. This may not be perfect, but I hope at least it does ensure that- whether because of a lack of synergy with the Hugo or any other reason- the differences I hear are solely due to differences in the IEM.
    I will certainly ping you the next time I am in Chicago! :)
  6. Mimouille
    Great impressions. I thought my 335 had more mid bass than the 334, but only tested the TG334, and quite a while ago. I feel the 335 is better than what you say, but on of the strengths of Fitear is in the fit of their customs, so demos cannot quite show that. They have very shallow and unbelievably comfortable fit.

    The Angie seems quite more interesting now then the Layla, given the price difference. But people seem to disagree quite a bit on this.
  7. robm321
    Nice impressions. 
  8. goodvibes
     My only remaining comment is that the Hugo can sound a bit different by what is driving it as well and synergies will still exist. That said, there's only so much one can do besides trying stuff on a variety of kit and the Hugo is tremendous place to start or end for that matter.[​IMG] I really like that your ratings give good things a similar highish grade as somewhat of an acknowledgement to these circumstances. Bringing these models to folks attention and getting them to know what to try to find their own favorites is a great service to the board. [​IMG] 
    jelt2359 likes this.
  9. M-13
    How as the Angie compared to the K10?
  10. jelt2359 Contributor
    When my own K10 gets in I will hotfoot it down there for direct comparisons. In the meantime, maybe our friend @Malevolent can chime in. He has the K10s and has been *quite* keen on the Angie/Layla pair for a while :)
  11. mejoshua
    Hi jelt, will you be doing a review of the UERM and/or the Earwerkz Supra?
  12. jelt2359 Contributor
    Supra yes. UERM no. I'm really kicking myself for missing the massdrop on the latter.
  13. mejoshua
    Ah yes I remember that drop. Almost wanted to jump on the bandwagon as well but didnt in the end. But I suspect it'll be back again soon e.g. come black friday this year. Curious to hear your thoughts on the UERM though and how it compares against your list of (c)iems. I was very impressed by the demo. Maybe you can do a brief impression if you ever get to demo it? :D AV one carries them in sg.
  14. jelt2359 Contributor

    Thanks a lot! Didn't know av one had them. Definitely on my to-try list :)
  15. Malevolent
    The Layla VS Angie VS Roxanne VS K10 is a shootout that has been on my mind for a long time! Think I should finally take the plunge and audition the 2 new Sirens this weekend.
    Hope I don't get poisoned, bro. [​IMG]
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